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Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1; Mazurkas

Margarita Höhenrieder (piano); Orchestra La Scintilla/Riccardo Minasi (Solo Musica)

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Piano Concerto No. 1; Mazurkas – selection
Margarita Höhenrieder (piano); Orchestra La Scintilla/Riccardo Minasi
Solo Musica SM 400   69:29 mins


Chopin’s E minor Piano Concerto predates his departure from Warsaw in 1830, yet shows his early maturity as a composer. A fine performance on period instruments recreates the fresher soundworld he would have known. Margarita Höhenrieder on an 1855 Pleyel with Zurich’s Orchestra La Scintilla conjures up all its lyricism and virtuosity. With conductor Riccardo Minasi, she reveals the combination of post-Mozartian grace and pre-Brahmsian sturdiness in the epically proportioned first movement, also drawing on bel canto inspiration in the central ‘Romance’ and brilliant krakowiak rhythms in the finale.

A change of venue (more intimate) and piano (another Pleyel of the same period) is audible in the selection of ten Mazurkas, drawn from across Chopin’s creative life. Höhenrieder’s playing here is perhaps a little too self-conscious when it comes to their distinctive dance rhythms. A period piano ought to bring us closer to the source of Chopin’s inspiration, since the dusky ‘twang’ of these earlier instruments can recall the dulcimer used in Polish folk music, yet these performances feel slightly too spiky to fully succeed.


John Allison